What is the Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Minnesota?

What does a contested and uncontested divorce mean in Minnesota?  People often strive for an uncontested divorce, while shying away from a contested divorce.  The idea is that a contested divorce means litigation and will lead to increased expense. While all in all this may be true, a contested divorce may be necessary in some circumstances and there are times that an uncontested divorce can be problematic in the future.

What is considered an uncontested divorce in Minnesota?

It is usually when both parties completely agree about every possible issue in the case. Both parties are typically in agreement about their property division, how to split parenting time (visitation) of their children, who should pay what for child support or spousal maintenance (alimony), and any other issues in their divorce.

What is considered a contested divorce in Minnesota?

A contested divorce usually means that there is not a complete agreement and the parties are often not on the same page regarding all of their issues.  Most people are afraid of contested divorces believing that the parties are not only battling issues, but that they end up in a complete war that takes months and possibly even years often fighting over everything including household goods and furnishings. While there are cases where this does happen, they are few and far between. Cases can become contested because one issue, out of other issues that the parties do resolve, cannot be resolved so the parties need outside help to assist them. Even if a case begins in a contested matter, that does not mean that it will become a protracted nightmare entangled in the court system.  Realistically, very few cases end up going all the way to a trial.

Common misperceptions

Most people believe that it is bad to disagree and that they need to have an uncontested divorce to avoid attorney’s fees and costs.  While attorneys certainly help their clients reach an uncontested divorce when possible, there are times that the parties are not truly in complete agreement on all issues and agreeing just to avoid attorney’s fees or the costs related to such disagreements could mean that a party is entering into a divorce that may not be in their or their children’s best interests.  While a bitter fight can be counterproductive and costly, honest disagreements are not bad things and should be resolved as part of the divorce rather than the potential added costs involved in trying to “fix” them after the divorce is final (which may not be possible in some circumstances). Having productive and creative conversations about asset division or issues involving the children can actually lead to a more equitable and agreeable divorce than an “uncontested” divorce where one party simply caves in and allows the other to dictate terms.

Another common misperception is that if a divorce starts out as contested it will end in an expensive courtroom battle.  This is often not the case. Many divorces begin with areas of contention, however, through negotiation and settlement efforts, most of those cases are eventually settled outside of court. Just because couples encounter some contentious issues does not mean that their case will become wildly expensive. Hiring a skilled family law attorney ensures that the final agreement will be written in such a way that protects your best interest. Fighting just to fight is a waste of time and money, but honest disagreements can be resolved by reaching an ultimately reasonable settlement.